The world is full of stories that are meant to be enjoyed and entertain a wide range of audiences. Not one book is alike and great novel can truly be distinguished by appealing to a wide mass of people, rather than just a select niche. From university students to cheap London escorts to professional businessmen alike, there is something out there for everyone, and therefore it should be celebrated that there are so many influential authors out there that can change the world with a single story.

Bending the Rules of Gender

With so many fantastic novels being available within the world, it makes it a very difficult choice when it comes to the annual fiction prizes. Whilst these categories are usually separated between men and women, within the Women’s Prize for Fiction, a non-binary transgender author from Nigeria has been selected out of 16 other nominees.

Akwaeke Emezi does not identify as either male or female and is the first non-binary trans author to be selected as a contender for the £30,000 prize and the notoriety behind being announced the winning fiction novel. The prize is known as the Orange Prize for fiction and its winner will be formally announced on the 5th June. Not only has this allowed Emezi to truly bend the gendered rules that allow participants to enter the competition, but it has allowed them the honour of being one of the seven debut novels to make it to the Orange Prize’s competitor list.

What is the Women’s Prize for Fiction?

According to the competition’s website “the Women’s Prize for Fiction is the UK’s most prestigious annual book award celebrating & honouring women’s fiction.” The prize was set up in 1996 in order to celebrate the “originality, accessibility & excellence in writing by women and to connect world-class writers with readers everywhere.” The fact that Emezi has been allowed to compete in this competition shows a fantastic progression in gender acceptance. What matters is the written work they bring to the table, thus should not be judged on what they define themselves as sexuality and gender-wise. As long as the novel is written in English, then it can be awarded to anyone no matter their nationality or country of residence.

The Nominated Novel

Emezi’s novel is titled “Freshwater” and tells the tale of a young Nigerian Woman who decides to migrate from her homeland to live in the USA. Throughout this trip, she comes to terms with the different versions of herself that are rooted in Igbo cosmology. Not only does the novel explore cosmology, but the idea of self-identity and parental expectations on their child and how they move on into adulthood. It also delves deep into the idea of belief and poetically drifts between what the character sees themselves as (and their other selves as) but also what other expectations have been placed upon her.

Not only is it a fantastic novel that encapsulates the idea of a drifting self, but it gives the reader a sense of how a self-identity is formed and what expectations help construct it. The book is extremely powerful and holds a clear message for others to learn from.

How the Competition will Work?

As of now, Emezi’s novel is solely one of the first 16 novels that have been announced as longlisters for the prize. However, these novels will soon be whittled down to seven. From there the list will be decreased again on the 29th April 2019. After this then the winner will be announced from the remaining competitors in June.

Previous Winners

The winner of this prestigious award truly receive notoriety from their peers and the chance to market their novel towards a wider audience. Previous winners have included Madeline Miller, for “The Song of Achilles”, Lionel Shriver, for “We Need to Talk about Kevin”, Zadie Smith, for “On Beauty” and Andrea Levy’s “Small Island.” These are all fantastic novels and truly deserve to be on anyone’s best book list!

Additional Competiting Titles

If you have finished reading Emezi’s fantastic novel, you may start considering what other entries have been listed for this prestigious award. This year’s longlist in full include:

⦁ The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker
⦁ Remembered, Yvonne Battle-Felton
⦁ My Sister, the Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite
⦁ The Pisces, Melissa Broder
⦁ Milkman, Anna Burns
⦁ Ordinary People, Diana Evans
⦁ Swan Song, Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott
⦁ An American Marriage, Tayari Jones
⦁ Number One Chinese Restaurant, Lillian Li
⦁ Bottled Goods, Sophie van Llewyn
⦁ Lost Children Archive, Valeria Luiselli
⦁ Praise Song for the Butterflies, Bernice L. McFadden
⦁ Circe, Madeline Miller
⦁ Ghost Wall, Sarah Moss

Do you have a Favorite Book from the Listed Titles?

Share your thoughts with us below!

Content Writer: Hannah Fletcher